Multiple gold medal-winning Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson has called on financial advisers to improve access to insurance for disabled clients
Speaking to our sister publication Professional Adviser at the COVER Health & Protection summit this month, the 11-time paralympic gold medalist described how difficult it has been to get to see a financial adviser, suggesting it seemed as if they did not want to work with disabled people.
"As soon as you tick 'disabled' - not even what the condition is - it will be 'right, no, we don't cover people like you'," she said.
Government statistics suggest there are some 11 million people with a disability living in the UK and almost half of those (45%) are above the state pension age. In addition, almost four-in-five of those over 85 are disabled, meaning there are huge numbers of people potentially on the hunt for financial advice.
Frustrated by the challenges she has found when applying for pensions schemes and insurance, Grey-Thompson said: "It feels like I am being penalised for being disabled. I'm disabled - I'm not sick."
'Be more open'
To help address the issue, Grey-Thompson said, advisers should do their research and learn about different conditions.
"You don't have to be an expert," she continued, "just be more open. Disabled people have money to spend - some have a lot - and they will go to the places where they receive equitable treatment.
"And, of course, disabled people have disabled friends and so will share their positive or negative advice experiences."
Grey-Thompson, who was born with spina bifida and is a wheelchair user, is one of the UK's most successful disabled athletes. In addition to her 11 Paralympic gold medals in wheelchair racing, she won four silvers and a bronze in a career that also saw her hold more than 30 world records and win the London Marathon six times between 1992 and 2002.
Grey-Thompson was created a life peer in 2010, becoming an independent crossbencher in the House of Lords.
"A lot of the work I'm involved with now is about encouraging an understanding of disability, but also for disabled people themselves to understand about their rights and opportunities," she said.
Grey-Thompson argued businesses were missing out because they were being short-sighted and not looking at the conditions in front of them.
This was not to suggest advisers were discriminating against disabled people when it came to working with them, she stressed, before going on to note "some improvement" - for example, a number of insurance brokers who specifically work with disabled people.
Advisers at the COVER summit were not aware of any discrimination by their profession against disabled people, with Interface Financial Planning financial planner Alan Moran saying anyone with any form of disability was welcome in his office.
"There are some difficult advisers out there," he acknowledged, "but I try and be as sympathetic and empathise as much as I can."
For his part, Jones Hill independent financial adviser Brian Hill said: "Many advisers will go and see clients in their homes and often work with vulnerable clients. So, I'd go so far as to say disabled clients would probably find a safe haven in working with many financial advisers."
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